We Did It!

11984558_1029268297107152_329793847_oIt’s official guys, last week my partner Steve and I completed our first 10k race, all in aid of Diabetes UK. I’m not usually one to blow my own trumpet but I am proud to say that we absolutely smashed it!

We took part in the Great Yorkshire Run 10k in Sheffield on Sunday 27 September and as I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, I was feeling more than a little nervous about it as I’m not a seasoned runner and certainly no 10k running pro.

But the day came and I felt excited, nervous and apprehensive all at once. As we gathered at the start line, I was scared but also felt so excited to just get going. I never thought running would make me feel so excited, I used to bloody hate it. The atmosphere was fantastic in Arundel Gate, Sheffield, with supporters standing at the sidelines and cheering everyone on. As we set off, I felt confident, carried along by the sea of fellow runners. We ran all the way along Penistone Road in Sheffield and I was surprised, even though I was effectively running on my own and not chatting to anyone, that I felt relaxed and there was no urge for me to stop like there usually is. That little voice in my head that wants me to slow down, stop running, just generally stop this madness had packed its bags and gone on holiday somewhere and it felt great. I ran a backwards version of the route that I usually take to work, thinking proudly to myself ‘I usually drive down this road in a morning and here I am now, running it.’ I ran past bands playing music to cheer us all on and even jogged alongside a man in a huge chipmunk costume for some of the way (big respect to him for being able to run in that).

As I reached the 5k mark, I spotted the first supporter that I knew – my manager from work and his family. The cheers they kindly gave me really spurred me on again at a point when I may have otherwise begun to flag.

12045717_10153664561373615_7241481359606691221_oAt the 8k mark, I spotted my friends and their two children at the side of the road, and to my delight they had made me a banner! My friend and I have a long-standing joke about our mutual annoyance at the over use of the ‘Keep Calm’ brand (it’s used for everything – just stop it now!!) so she had crafted me a ‘Keep Calm’ banner and her adorable children were there holding the banner. *Heart melts*

Just as I rounded the last corner and was about to take on the hill that ended the race (and the one which I was warned about by a few people beforehand), I took a deep breath and prepared to go for it. Then, I felt a tap on my shoulder and Steve, who was in the group behind mine and so started the race five minutes after me, smiled at me and promptly overtook me. ‘Nooooo!’ I thought, ‘I must chase after him’, but as soon as I tried to sprint, I realised it was just too ambitious, so I returned to my plod and let him shoot off.

Crossing the finish line, I couldn’t keep a big smile off my face, it was an amazing feeling! Later I discovered when looking at the official results on the website, that I had completed the race in 01:05:12 and Steve had completed it in 01:00:44. Definitely a PB for both of us!!!

What’s more, we’ve managed to raise £283 to date for Diabetes UK, which has smashed our original target of £200.

So, without wanting to turn into a running bore (I promise I won’t!) I now feel like I could be hooked and am already counting down the days until Monday 5 October, when  I can sign up to my next 10k race – the Percy Pud Run, Sheffield, in December 2015. (Although after seeing the official footage of me crossing the finish line yesterday, that was almost enough to put me off stepping into my running shoes again. I looked like a hunchback throwing myself over the finish line.)

I’ll keep a little quieter about the next race on the blog, but I just wanted to share this milestone fitness achievement and would like to thank everyone who has offered kind words of support through my blog ahead of the race.

Massive thanks to everyone who has sponsored us and donated money to Diabetes UK, or who has offered  – you are all lovely people!! Huge thanks also to friends and family who came to cheer us on on the day, that completely made it for us!

Mami 2 Five
My Random Musings

The A to Z of Baking: K is for KitKat Chequerboard Cake

IMG-20150911-WA0004My sister suggested I create a ‘KitKat cake’ for the ‘K’ of my challenge, to celebrate her last day in her job before she moved on to pastures new. I thought the idea of a KitKat cake would be great, but wanted to make this creation memorable for more than the chocolate wafer fingers that lined the outside of the cake, so I delved back into my Hidden Surprise Cakes book and found an impressive recipe for a chequerboard cake.

Although this cake involves two batches of oven cooking as there are four sponges (unless you have a double oven), it really wasn’t as time consuming to make as I expected it to be. I’ve included the detailed instructions before on how to make the cake. It was surprisingly simple to compile the sections of the cake to create a chequerboard effect, but it is important to make sure you wait for the sponges to cool completely before cutting into them and re-ordering.

My sister, who openly admits she prefers manufactured cakes to homemade creations, sent me a text on her last day of work to say she loved the cake, and so did her colleagues, which was fantastic to hear as I’d not been able to cut into the cake to check the effect inside before handing it over to my sister. Apparently, comments my sister received from her colleagues were “does she do this for a living?” and “she should really go on Bake Off!” Praise indeed!

High points

Have you seen the inside of this cake? That’s the high point; it really blows a lot of people’s minds, trying to work out how to achieve this effect and the truth is, it’s really simple to do so!

Low points

You really need to make sure the cakes are cooled completely before cutting shapes into them and maneuvering them, as i mentioned above. I wasn’t very delicate when lifting some of the rings, so they split in half (oops) but I managed to salvage them. The frosting helped to stick them back together!

For the chocolate sponges:

  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
  • 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk

For the orange sponges:

  • 225 self-raising flour
  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice

For the frosting:

  • 175g plain chocolate
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 100ml double cream


  • Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Grease two 7-inch round sandwich tins (I used two 8-inch tins).
  • To make the chocolate sponges, mix together the cocoa powder, coffee granules and hot water in a small bowl to make a smooth paste. Set aside. Sift the flour into a large bowl and add the butter, sugar, eggs and milk. Beat with a hand held electric mixer for one to two minutes until smooth and creamy, then beat in the cocoa paste.
  • Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared tins and bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until risen and just firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely. Clean tins, then grease again.
  • To make the orange sponges, sift the flour into a large bowl and add the butter, sugar and eggs. Beat with a hand held electric mixer for one to two minutes until smooth and creamy, then beat in the orange juice.
  • Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared tins and bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until risen and just firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.


  • Place the chilled cakes on two large boards. Using a 6cm round metal cutter, stamp out a round from the centre of each cake and carefully remove.
  • Then, using a 12cm cutter or saucer as a guide, cut a ring of sponge from each cake. Very carefully separate and remove the rings, leaving four outer rings of sponge.


  • Re-assemble the cakes, swapping the chocolate and orange sponge cakes and rings so you end up with four sponge cakes that look like targets.

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To make the frosting:

  • Put the chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl doesn’t touch the water, and heat until the chocolate and butter have melted.
  • Remove the bowl from the heat and stir the mixture until smooth. Leave to cool for 2-3 minutes, then stir in the cream. Leave to stand at room temperature for 20-30 minutes, then chill in the fridge for 40-50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick enough to spread.
  • To decorate, spread a thin layer of frosting over one of the sponge cakes and top with a second alternate sponge cake. Repeat to stack up all the layers neatly, making sure you alternate the sponges as you go to ensure a chequerboard appearance when you cut into the cake.
  • Spread the remaining frosting around the sides and over the top of the cake.
  • Line the outside of the cake with individual KitKat fingers – I used four two-finger KitKats from the following flavours for this cake: Chocolate orange, dark chocolate, cookies and cream, and toffee treat.

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Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com


One ‘little’ run…

12036743_10153258406933031_7734508402885119726_nOne ‘little’ run can totally change your perspective on things and yesterday evening, it did just that. With just over a week to go now until I take part in my first 10k running challenge at the Great Yorkshire Run, it’s safe to say that I’ve begun to feel a little nervous as this past week has wore on. I didn’t think I would feel quite so affected by these pre-race jitters but they really have been getting to me, so much so that I even had one of those textbook anxious dreams this week when you’re feeling nervous about a forthcoming event. I dreamt that it was race day and I woke up 15 minutes before it was due to set off, so I was panicking that I hadn’t eaten or prepared or anything. I made it to the start line but I don’t know what happened next.

I think the reason I’ve been getting so worked up this week about the race is that I just haven’t been running the longer distances that I’d hoped I would ahead of the big day. I was panicking that I still hadn’t run more than 5k in one go, and when people have been saying to me: “if you can run 5k, you manage 10k”, I just haven’t been able to get my head around that logic. Packing for a rapidly impending house move that has no set date and a ridiculously busy week at work this week didn’t help, either.

But last night, it all changed when I met a friend, who will also be taking part in the Great Yorkshire 10k, for a run around the picturesque Dam Flask in Sheffield. I hadn’t run around there before, even though it’s really close to where I live, and apparently one lap of the dam is just over 5k. We set off, with plans to run round only once, but as we kept on going and chatting about all sorts, the time seemed to fly. As we came to the end of the lap, Sarah looked at me and asked if I wanted to go around again. I didn’t feel as tired – or as sweaty! – as I usually do and although I was tempted to bail, go home and have some dinner, a little voice at the back of my head piped up and said: “You’ve been beating yourself up about this all week, go and make yourself proud” – and so, I half-reluctantly agreed and off we went for a second lap.

Although part-way around the second lap I began to feel weary, I had much more energy than I expected and felt more focused in my head, rather than having that constant repetition of ‘I want to stop, I want to STOP!’ rattling around my brain in time with my strides. It was surprising, I thought I’d simply hate the second lap and not be able to hack it physically, either. Then, as we saw the car  come into view, we went for it and when we got there, the sense of elation and ‘Oh my gosh, I actually did 10k for the first time ever!!’ was amazing!

All the way home  I was absolutely buzzing, and I have been all day today, just feeling so pleased with myself for achieving something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time but have been telling myself, rather negatively, that I didn’t think I could do. Perhaps I’ve been capable of a 10k for a lot longer than I think, but I’ve just been wasting too much energy on that doubtful little voice inside my head that has been telling me that I can’t. Telling me that I can’t because I’m not a runner, I’m not fit enough, I don’t have the right physique and my boobs are too big (!). Well, yesterday I showed myself that I CAN do it and you know what, I’m feeling pretty proud of myself for this achievement.

Now, I’m still a little bit nervous about next week’s race, and I think that’s normal, but more than anything I’m so excited for the race and can’t wait to get out there on the day.

Bring it on!

My Random Musings

Celebrating Mum’s Birthday with a Beautiful Bouquet (PLUS 25% Off Your Next Bunch!)

I love flowers and believe there is often no better way to show your love than with a beautiful bunch of roses, lilies, tulips… – you name the variety, all flowers are just lovely and a bouquet can brighten up your day, and your home, no end.

Whether I’m on the receiving end of a bouquet of flowers (always such a lovely treat!) or whether I’m the one offering them to a loved one, flowers just make me smile. So, when the lovely peeps at Debenhams Flowers got in touch and offered to send me a bouquet from their Summer Flowers collection for review, I jumped at the chance. What’s more, as my mum’s birthday was on the horizon, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to wish her a happy birthday with an exquisite bunch of flowers delivered from the Debenhams collection. I opted for the Designer Red Sky bouquet (RRP £45.99), a stunning mix of blue hydrangeas, red luxury grand prix roses with scented red oriental lilies and seasonal berries.

I requested the luxury flowers to arrive in time for Mum’s birthday and sure enough, they arrived on time and in perfect condition, carefully packaged in an impressive box – which is always nice to open the door to! Carefully wrapped in cellophane and with some plant food to keep them happy, the flowers looked every bit as wonderful as they did on the web pages and Mum was just thrilled with them. Of course, when she started telling me repeatedly that they looked expensive and that I shouldn’t have spent so much money on the flowers when I am in the process of buying a house, I had to own up and tell her that this gift was courtesy of the kind folk at Debenhams Flowers! (Luckily, I had bought her other gifts, also…!).

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The bouquets from Debenhams Flowers are guaranteed to last for seven days, and sure enough they did, lasting eight days in total. When the lilies came into full bloom, the bouquet looked even more delightful and filled the living room with a beautiful, floral scent.

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If you fancy treating someone – or even just yourself (why not?!) – to a gorgeous bouquet from the Debenhams Flowers range, then the following discount code will bag you 25% off, courtesy of the Jenny on a Plate blog: DFBLOG25 (please note that the ‘Flowers by Post’ range is exempt from this discount). They even offer a Next Day Flowers service so if you want to order at the last moment for a special occasion, fear not!

*Disclaimer – I was sent the bouquet free of charge for the purposes of review, however all opinions remain my own*.


Thoughts on Motherhood

I’ve wanted to write something around this subject for quite some time – years, in fact – but never had the strength to, for fear of being judged or for fear of hurting anyone involved in the story that I had to recount. The nearest I came to addressing this topic was back in 2012 when I was 28 and in the midst of a deep turmoil about the whole issue, so I certainly didn’t have the courage to reveal the full extent of what I was feeling for fear of hurting any parties involved.

Well, I am not out to hurt anyone at all and I desperately want to share this story because it’s shaped the course of my life over the past few years so I would really like to get this off my chest.

So, here’s my story…

I was never particularly maternal in my early 20s or even considered having children, because I couldn’t see past the end of my nose at that stage in life. Even when I first got together with my now ex-partner I didn’t consider it, we were too busy partying and enjoying life right as it was there and then to even discuss it. But it all changed one year after we got together, when my best friend at the time had fallen pregnant with her first child and she asked me to be at the birth, mainly because the father wasn’t particularly reliable at that time and she wasn’t sure whether he was going to be around for the birth. Luckily he was, and I, along with her sisters and my sister  – quite a crowd of us! – were also present for the birth and it was the single most life-changing experience of my life to date, being there to witness a life being brought into the world. We supported my friend throughout the night at the home birth she had chosen to have, and as soon as her little baby boy arrived, we all burst into tears of joy and relief, and those tears didn’t stop when I got home a while later. I cried and cried, and at the time I wasn’t even sure why – I was so happy for her so there were tears of joy in there, but I was also struck with the realisation that I actually did want that for myself and I was nowhere near achieving it, it seemed, so there was sadness in those tears as well.

The seed was planted then (no pun intended, due to the nature of this piece…) that I wanted a family to be a part of my future. But my life just didn’t seem to be heading that way. Not long afterwards, I moved in with my boyfriend into his home, which was a happy progression for us, but our lifestyle wasn’t really one that looked like it would lead to children and that set-up didn’t look likely to change. It was 2010 then and I was 26, and that year, I really began to know what anxiety was. I’ve always had it in me to worry but it became out of control then, I worried constantly, I cried often, I began to talk to my partner more and more about the prospect of a family, and we argued more and more as a result, which made my feelings worse. I was hard on myself too, going through things in my head, over and over and over again, berating myself for not being able to just get on with things – kids weren’t the be all and end all were they, so why was I being such a misery? Why couldn’t I just let this go?

But the thing is, when a woman has a desire for a family, no amount of logical reasoning will stop her feeling that way…

But the thing is, when a woman has a desire for a family, no amount of logical reasoning will stop her feeling that way. And when you’re a woman having those feelings, being denied an answer by your partner as to whether you can even try for that kind of a future together is soul destroying. I loved my partner but we were in an absolute rut – I wanted an exact ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as to whether he wanted children, and as a result he felt he was being backed into a corner by me. We were at loggerheads. I felt like my head would forever be bruised from all the times I banged it against that metaphorical wall, never reaching any kind of resolution.

It didn’t help that, around this time, I was being asked by a few members of my family, more and more regularly, ‘so when are you going to have children?’ Even though I was only 26/27, I was being reminded that my biological clock was beginning to tick – the last thing I needed to be reminded of,  based on how I was feeling at that time. Maybe they could see then that it wasn’t working with my partner, that we didn’t want the same things, or maybe they were just curious. Either way, that approach didn’t help and the arguments that arose between myself and some family members when I lashed out in upset just added to the utter s**t that I felt. I felt alone and miserable, and the possibility of a family of my own in the future still seemed to evade me.

I felt obsessed by it all, and also trapped by it all. I, of course, realise that people have difficulties in starting their own family for all kinds of reasons, both medical and emotional, so I knew my situation was nothing unique or earth-shattering but I couldn’t find any peace or resolution in it at all. In my naive life beforehand, I truly hoped, and honestly half expected, that should I ever decide in the future that I wanted kids that it would just happen. I feel almost embarrassed admitting that now. I wouldn’t entertain the idea of taking steps to begin a family without my partner’s consent because that was just not moral to me, but I couldn’t bear to walk away either. I felt confined by my need for a family, haunted by it, but unable to make a change. The whole thing was driving me crazy.

Although life had become less than rosy overall, due to the huge elephant in the room of my relationship, my boyfriend and I still had good times, and I didn’t want to walk away because I loved him very much; he was, and is, a good person and I will always think the world of him. There were times when we could forget that future that we couldn’t quite agree on and just enjoy living in the moment.

But then the s**t hit the fan again a couple of years later when another of my oldest friends announced she was pregnant with her first child. I was obviously happy for her but it brought to the fore all those feelings that had been bubbling away not too far under the surface for far too long. Now, not only did I feel miserable that my chance to try for a family still wasn’t happening, but I felt guilt over the fact that a little part of me was upset that another friend was pregnant. I didn’t want to have those kinds of feelings, I felt selfish, why couldn’t I just be completely happy for her?

Not long afterwards, after years of longing for a future that included children, I walked away from my relationship and it broke my heart, more than it already felt broken. My desire to have a family finally won out and as much as I loved my partner, I knew that I needed to pursue a future that gave me the hope of a family. If I didn’t even try, I knew I would regret it and hate myself for it, and I would end up resenting my partner beyond repair too, so I walked away to try and save my sanity and to try and rescue a friendship with the man that I had spent so long with and still loved like family.

It goes without saying that this wasn’t an easy choice to make, but in the end we just didn’t want the same things and after so long, I finally felt a little more able to accept that. As I mentioned earlier, this post wasn’t written with the aim of hurting anyone but I wanted to share my story and thoughts on motherhood to make my peace with the past and hopefully offer any helpful words to anyone who may be in a similar position to what I was in. When I was in my darkest moments, stuck because I couldn’t see a future with a family and mad with myself because I couldn’t just switch off my desire for a family (yes, I even hoped that it was possible to do that at times, go against mother nature), I trawled the net for advice, support, enlightenment. Conversations with loved ones had, more often than not, become fraught so I shut off from them, but I still wanted so desperately to hear or read someone else’s story, to know that it would all be okay in the end. As much as the solution may look easy from the outside, all you have to do is make a change to your situation if you can’t find a resolution, it can be damn hard to do when you don’t feel you have the strength to make that move. Hopefully, if there’s anyone in that place now, they may read this and find a little bit of hope in it.

Now, two years on, I am in a new relationship and a family looks on the cards for our future, although not immediately. It’s something we’ve discussed and both want. I feel calmer knowing that this is something we will try for. I feel 100% happy for friends when they announce their pregnancies, and also excited and hopeful that I too will have the opportunity to become a mother one day.

There is still some worry that, after wanting this so much for the past few years, it still may never happen for me when I do actually get the opportunity to try. There is still emotional pain from time to time, but if motherhood never happens for me, no matter how painful that may be, I hope that I will at least find some kind of solace in knowing that I made a change to try and make it happen and if it doesn’t, hopefully I won’t be so hard on myself.


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My Random Musings


The A to Z of Baking: J is for Jo Pepper ‘Surprise’ Cake

Much like the ‘E’ of this baking challenge (Enormous Chocolate Surprise Cupcake), the latest recipe for the letter ‘J’ was a bit of a tenuous link but when an occasion to bake arises and you can shoe-horn it into the challenge then why not go for it, I say!

Quite handily, a friend at work, Jo Pepper, had her last week in our Department before she moved on to pastures new on the same week as the ‘J’ of my challenge, so when a few of us thought of hosting an afternoon tea party in her honour, it just seemed like the obvious choice to make a ‘Jo Pepper Surprise Cake’. It was a surprise for two reasons: firstly because, well, she didn’t know she was having a cake or a tea party, and secondly, the middle of the cake was filled with edible POLKA DOTS!

I’ve blogged before about my obsession with polka dots, so when I came across the recipe for a polka dot cake in a recipe book (Hidden Surprise Cakes by Angela Drake), I jumped at the chance to take my love for all things dotty to new heights and try out this cake.

The recipe I followed is below but I personalised it in Jo’s honour by ordering an edible photo cake topper from eBay (there are lots of sellers to choose from), and placed a selection selection of mini edible photo cupcake toppers, also imprinted with Jo’s face, that were left over from the cupcakes that another friend at work was making for the tea party. I also chose to decorate the edges with M&Ms for an extra splash of colour.



High points

Using cake pop moulds to create polka dots within the cake certainly makes an impression upon cutting into the cake and is a good talking point! Personalising the cake in Jo’s honour also ensured we gave her a send off in style! The cake was very tall but moist and the layer of the frosting in the middle (as well as around the edges) broke it up a little so it wasn’t too ‘spongy’.

Low points

I used baby pink food colouring paste for the polka dots, mainly because it was one of only two food colourings I had in the house, but it wasn’t vibrant enough a colour in my opinion. A really vibrant colour would have added to the wow effect. Next time, I would consider using multiple colours.

For the sponge balls:

  • 100g self-raising flour, sifted
  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • Food colouring paste in a colour – or colours – of your choice (I opted for baby pink)

For the chocolate sponges:

  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 35g cocoa powder
  • 225g unsalted butter, softened
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons of milk

For the glossy chocolate frosting:

  • 175g plain chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 100g unsalted butter, diced
  • 100ml double cream


  • Preheat the oven to 180C/350 F/ gas mark 4. Lightly grease both halves of a 20-hole silicone cake pop mould and place the bottom mould on a baking sheet.
  • To make the sponge balls, place the flour, butter, sugar and eggs in a large bowl and beat with a hand-held electric mixer for one to two minutes until smooth and creamy. Beat in enough food colouring paste to give the mixture a bright colour.
  • Use a teaspoon to distribute the mixture evenly in the bottom mould, taking care not to overfill each dip in the cake mould. Then place the other mould on top. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the sponge balls are risen and firm to the touch. Leave the cake in the moulds for 20 minutes, then carefully remove them, trimming off any excess sponge around the balls with the tip of a small knife. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely. Do not switch off the oven.
The cake pop creations go into the cake tin with the cake mix...

The cake pop creations go into the cake tin with the cake mix…

  • To make the chocolate sponges, sift together the flour and cocoa powder into a large bowl and add the butter, sugar and eggs. Beat with a hand-held electric mixer for one to two minutes until smooth and creamy, then beat in the milk.
  • Grease two cake tins (original recipe calls for two 6.5 inch tins but I used two 8 inch tins as this was all I had) and place on a large baking sheet. Divide the chocolate sponge mixture in two. Spread one third of each quantity in the base of each tin. Arrange ten sponge balls in each mould, placing one in the centre and the remaining nine in a circle.
  • Spoon the remainder of each mixture into each cake mould, making sure the mixture goes down around the sides of the sponge balls. Gently level the surface with a palette knife.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until the cakes are risen and just firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the moulds for ten minutes, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

To make the frosting:

  • Put the chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl doesn’t touch the water, and heat until the chocolate and butter have melted.
  • Remove the bowl from the heat and stir the mixture until smooth. Leave to cool for 2-3 minutes, then stir in the cream. Leave to stand at room temperature for 20-30 minutes, then chill in the fridge for 40-50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick enough to spread.

To decorate, sandwich the two sponges together with a quarter of the frosting. Spread the remaining frosting around the sides and over the top of the cake, smoothing and swirling it with a palette knife. I then placed the round edible photo cake topper on top of the cake. I decorated the side of the cake with M&Ms and a selection of mini edible photo cupcake toppers. You could go crazy here and decorate however you like!

My Random Musings

The A to Z of Baking: I is for Ice Cream Cupcakes

IMG_0090I have loved baking the ‘I’ of the A to Z of Baking challenge this week, I can tell you! I opted for Ice Cream Cupcakes and these cheeky little treats have been fun to make, impressive to show off to friends and tasty to trough away on…

What’s made these cakes even more enjoyable was that I made them on Friday evening, ahead of a busy weekend of visiting a university friend and the gorgeous new addition to her family, a little baby boy, on the Saturday, before welcoming a school friend and her family over to our house for lunch on Sunday, so I had plenty of opportunity to share out the cupcakes over catch ups. As I’ve mentioned in previous baking challenge blog posts, I find baking so much more enjoyable and worthwhile when there is an occasion to bake for. On those weeks of the baking challenge when there’s not much happening generally and I’m struggling to palm cake off on people, it can all feel a little indulgent and, well, wasteful.

I followed a recipe shared with me from a friend of a friend and it was lovely and simple, but tasty. I knew that I’d be having to pipe the topping onto the cupcakes and this made me a little nervous because I’ve had a crappy plastic piping nozzle and equally flimsy piping bag for quite some time and every time I’ve used it, it’s ended in a bag splitting disaster. I’ve managed to avoid piping in my last few recipes but thought I really couldn’t avoid it any longer so I invested in a set of metal nozzles and sturdier bag earlier last week in preparation for the challenge. Not surprisingly, the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ came true and it turned out that investing a little more in a decent set of nozzles and bag worked wonders!

I was proud to trot off to Stoke-on-Trent on Saturday afternoon with a tin full of ice cream cupcakes, the only disaster came when I arrived and found that most had fallen over in the tin on the way… I was sure there were that many in the tin that they would support one another but clearly not! Cue much ranting and raving from me at this point…

Luckily, with the help of my other half, we managed to salvage the cakes so they looked reasonably presentable once again and took them into our friends’ house; they had both been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the cakes and wondering what the creation for the letter ‘I’ would be! I don’t think they were disappointed with the result, even if the little cupcakes did look a little dishevelled after a two-hour journey.

High points

These cupcakes are super fun – and easy – to make and look really impressive. The recipe I was kindly given is very tasty, not just your bog standard fairy cake recipe, so it’s an impressive looking cake that really packs a punch in the taste department.

Low points

The low point was all down to my naivety – next time I’m planning on taking cakes on a long-distance car journey, I really should invest in a more suitable method of packaging!

For the cupcakes (makes 20-21):

  • 240g plain flour
  • 280g caster sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 80g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 240ml whole milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 21 wafer ice cream cup cones

For the frosting:

  • 250g mascarpone
  • 200g full fat cream cheese
  • 150g unrefined icing sugar
  • Zest of a lemon

Other optional ingredients:

  • Small quantity of lemon curd to top the baked cupcakes with – this is optional
  • A box of Cadbury’s Flakes, to top the cupcakes with
  • Hundreds and thousands to sprinkle on top of the cakes


  • Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas mark 3.
  • Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in a free-standing electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a hand-held electric whisk) and beat on slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.
  • Gradually pour in half the milk and beat until the milk is just incorporated.
  • Whisk the egg, vanilla extract and remaining milk together in a separate bowl for a few seconds, then pour into the flour mixture and continue beating until just incorporated (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula). Continue mixing for a couple more minutes until the mixture is smooth. Do not overmix.
  • Spoon the mixture into the wafer ice cream cup cones until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for 20–25 minutes, or until light golden and the sponge bounces back when touched. Be careful not to spill cake mixture down the outsides of the wafer cones as it can burn when in the oven.
  • Leave the cakes to cool on a wire rack and once cooled, top with a layer of lemon curd before icing if you wish (this is optional, but adds to the flavour).
  • To make the frosting, put the icing sugar, mascarpone and cream cheese into the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat till smooth and creamy. Mix in the lemon zest.
  • Fill a piping bag with the frosting and then pipe onto the cupcakes in a circular motion.
  • Top each cupcake with a mini Cadbury’s Flake and sprinkle some hundreds and thousands over if you wish.


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After Race for Life (5k) in 2014 - the furthest I have ever run in one stint.

Countdown to My First 10k Race

After Race for Life (5k) in 2014 - the furthest I have ever run in one stint.

After Race for Life (5k) in 2014 – the furthest I have ever run in one stint.

I mentioned back in March (where is this year going?!) that I had taken up running and had signed up to run my first 10k at the end of September, as it was a goal of mine to complete my first 10k this year. September seemed like a very long time away for most of the year because, well, just because it was(!), but here we are now, fast approaching the end of August and I am feeling more than a little nervous about the Great Yorkshire Run I am due to take part in in my home city of Sheffield on Sunday, September 27, 2015.

Oh my word, in five weeks I will be running 10k – a walk in the park to some people yes, but I have never run more than 5k in one stint, so I really can’t imagine doing that distance twice! I’ve enjoyed running this year as my primary form of exercise but I will admit that over the summer my approach to it has been very stop-start-y, what with birthdays, holidays, festivals, general life getting in the way. I haven’t made as much time for running as I should have and I’m a little embarrassed to admit that.

Nevertheless, after returning from a summer holiday to my beloved Greece a couple of weeks ago, I have been determined to knuckle down and get on with training. I have set myself my 10k goal for this year, I have told family and friends that this is what I am doing, so I will not give up!!

Taking advice from my good friend and all-round fitness inspiration Helen, I have begun doing, and will continue to do,  two after-work runs and a longer weekend run (5k and hopefully a little further each time) each week to prepare for the race. Helen, a London Marathon completer,  is a keen runner and recently posted some great pre-race ritual tips over on her blog at Helen Got Fit. I’ve been following Helen’s advice and if you’re just starting out in running or looking to improve your form, you should definitely go and give Helen’s blog a visit.

Looking ahead to the race day, I don’t have any time that I want to beat as this will be my first race and I will just be happy to get through it, to be honest! I will admit that a tiny part of me would be super, super thrilled if I completed my first 10k in an hour or under, but the bigger, more realistic part of me knows that in the state I am in, that’s probably not going to happen so I’m not paying too much attention to that naive ambition. My boyfriend Steve will be running his first 10k with me on the day, so it is a first for both of us, and together we’ll be raising money for Diabetes UK, because everything the charity is fighting for is a cause close to both of our hearts. You can find out more about why we have chosen to raise funds for Diabetes UK here.

I’ll let you know how we get on, eeeek!


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The A to Z of Baking: H is for Honey and Pear Layer Cake

IMG_0080Fresh from my recent holiday to Greece, I had intended to make Honey and Lemon Loaf for the ‘H’ of my baking challenge but upon revisiting the recipe, it looked really quite underwhelming and I was really up for challenging myself a bit more this week. So instead, I plumped for a last-minute change and decided to make Honey and Pear Layer Cake, from my new favourite book – Hummingbird Bakery’s Cake Days book (I’m not on commission from Hummingbird, I promise!).

The last layer cake I made was the Double Chocolate and Espresso Cake, back in the ‘D’ day of my baking challenge, and I ended up having to go with only two layers rather than the suggested four because I used two 9″ cake tins, rather than the suggested 8″ tins, and, not surprisingly, found I couldn’t easily then slice my cakes into two. Naive!

No more skimping on the proper equipment this time around, I decided, so I invested in two 8″ cake tins in order to make this week’s creation. I had to make the four layers in two batches because I don’t have the luxury of a double oven, but as two cake layers only took 25 minutes to bake between them, it didn’t feel too time demanding.

And what do you know, I cracked a layer cake for the first time! The cake was surprisingly easy to make and is super, super tasty. It’s sweet but varied in flavour – honey, pear and cheese frosting, if you please…

I took some of the cake into work to share with colleagues after they’d had a few weeks off from me forcing cakes upon them and two of them loved the cake so much that they ordered the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book off the back of it. Hummingbird, you so should be paying me commission ;-)

High points

This cake was surprisingly easy to make but still looks and tastes like a little bit of a showstopper…

Low points

That said, my presentation, although I can tell it is improving, still leaves a lot to be desired and this cake didn’t look quite as ‘finished’ as I had hoped. I didn’t crystallise the fruit on top of the cake for long enough, for a start.

Ingredients for the caramelised pears:

  • 3 pears
  • 20g unsalted butter
  • 60g runny honey
  • 40g caster sugar

Ingredients for the sponge:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 40g soft light brown sugar
  • 120ml buttermilk
  • 120g runny honey
  • 120ml vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 280g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt

Ingredients for the frosting:

  • 500g icing sugar (I only had 345g in the house though so I winged it, and it turned out ok!
  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 250g full fat cream cheese
  • 50g runny honey


  • Preheat the oven to 170C and line the base of the sandwich tins.
  • Peel and core the pears and cut lengthways into about 12 slices. Place the remaining ingredients in a saucepan and melt together on a low heat. Add the sliced pears and cook until golden. Set aside to cool while you make the sponge batter.
  • Using a handheld electric whisk or a freestanding electric mixer with the paddle attachment cream together the eggs and sugars until light and fluffy.
  • In a jug stir together the buttermilk, honey, vegetable oil and lemon zest. Pour the liquid into the creamed ingredients while mixing on a low speed.
  • Sift together the remaining ingredients, add to the creamed mixture and mix together on a medium speed to ensure everything is well incorporated. Divide the cake batter evenly between the prepared cake tins.
  • Top the batter with the cooked pears, allowing approximately nine slices per cake and placing them in concentric circles, each slice evenly spaced apart.
  • Place in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until each sponge is golden brown on top and bounces back when lightly pressed. Allow the cakes to cool completely before you frost them.
  • To make the frosting, using the electric whisk or mixer with the paddle attachment slowly mix the butter and icing sugar together until no large lumps of butter remain and the ingredients have a sandy consistency.
  • Add the cream cheese and honey and continue mixing on a low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to medium and beat the frosting until it’s light and fluffy.
  • Once the cakes are cooled, place the first layer cake on a plate and top with 3-4 tablespoons of frosting, smoothing it on with a palette knife and adding a little more if needed.Continue this process with each layer.
  • When you have added the final layer frost the sides and top of the cake covering it completely so that no sponge can be seen.

**I topped the cake with crystallised fruit (I used strawberries and apricots, but you can use any fruit). To do this, I fully dipped each fruit piece in egg white and then dipped the fruit in a bowl of caster sugar to fully coat the fruit. I then left the fruit to set – you are recommended to do this for 24 but I probably only did about 12 to be fair because I was pushed for time, so my fruit could have been a little more crystallised.

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Cake Club TamingTwins September 2015

9 Reasons You Should Still Visit Greece

Oia, Santorini, 2015.

Oia, Santorini, 2015.

I have a long-standing love affair with Greece. Apart from one year off last year, I have visited a different part of Greece every year for the last six years, sometimes venturing over there more than once in a year, such is my love for the country. I first travelled to Greece when I was 18, on a girly holiday with three friends to Crete, just before we all departed for university. I didn’t look at the country on that first visit in the same way that I do now, however. At 18, all I was looking for was cocktails and boys. Now though, there is so much I appreciate when I visit Greece; it is a country that takes my breath away for so many reasons.

Greece has been in the press a lot recently, and not always in such a positive way. With the country’s economical issues widely reported and also the news of the influx of immigrants arriving on the island of Kos, it’s been enough to make people think twice about visiting the country. Over the past few months, I personally have heard people say they were choosing to avoid Greece for a summer holiday this year because they didn’t want to run the risk of being stranded with no cash, being mugged in the streets, robbed in their hotel rooms, or they just generally didn’t want to spend a week in a country where the economy is ‘on its knees’ and there wouldn’t be a fun, holiday vibe for the tourists there.

I’ll be honest, the recent media hysteria and the opinions of others left me feeling a tad nervous about an impending trip to Santorini, an island I’ve wanted to visit for years. I ended up making the journey over to Santorini last week however, and it was a million miles away from the hysteria that has been reported in the press. It was a friendly island with a laid-back vibe and a wonderful week was had. So, as I sit here fresh off my flight and I reminisce already over the last week, I wanted to share with you just a few of my personal reasons why you shouldn’t be put off from visiting this beautiful country.

Whether you’ve been before or whether it’s your first time, here’s just 9 reasons – in no particular order – from me (although I could list more!) why it’s totally worth going and showing Greece some love…


Kefalonia, 2010.

Kefalonia, 2010.

Whatever kind of beach you are looking for in Greece, you can find it. From the lively, party beaches in the busier resorts, to secluded little coves and bays, Greece has it all. And more often than not, the beaches are a beautiful sight to behold, with crystal clear waters. A particularly fond beach-related memory I have of Greece is driving the small island of Kefalonia in our rented jeep and stopping off at one of the many coves located around the island. Each one different, yet each one stunning.


The view from lunch - Parga, Mainland Greece, 2013.

The view from lunch – Parga, Mainland Greece, 2013.

Greece is famous for its cuisine and as a self-confessed greedy pig who loves to eat pretty much anything and everything, I simply love the variety and the freshness of the Greek diet. Many of the traditional recipes have been passed down through the generations, and adapted and perfected over time. You can’t beat a laid-back lunch of a typical Greek Salad, filled with cucumbers, peppers, feta cheese and the plumpest, juiciest tomatoes you’ve ever seen. All washed down with an ice cold Mythos beer, of course ;-) .

Although I am gradually attempting to cut down my meat intake where possible, I do enjoy to sample the traditional kleftico dish whenever I visit, slow cooked lamb with potatoes and my favourite ingredient – feta cheese, of course!

Without doubt, the best kleftico I tasted was at Caesar’s restaurant in Lindos, Rhodes. Offering a modern twist on a classic dish, it was simply delicious. Plus, the beautiful atmosphere of the rooftop restaurant, with views out over Lindos Bay, made this eating experience even more exquisite. If you visit Lindos, you must visit Caesar’s and after you’ve enjoyed your meal, go and have a drink with Yannis, the owner, at the bar. He’s a lovely man and Lindos legend!

With Yannis and family at Caesar's restaurant - Lindos, Rhodes, 2013.

With Yannis (second from left) and family at Caesar’s restaurant – Lindos, Rhodes, 2013.


Enjoying a little tipple in Koutouloufari, Crete, 2012.

Enjoying a little tipple in Koutouloufari, Crete, 2012.

Perfectly accompanying the delicious cuisine in Greece is the wine you can enjoy there. Although Greek wine is not something we may commonly pick up in our off licences and supermarkets in the UK – compared with the French, Italian, Australian and South American wines we more often see on our shelves, for example – the country is actually one of the oldest wine producing regions in the world. You can share half a litre of the local wine with your meal in a taverna for roughly €4-5 and, nine times of out ten, it is very palatable and enjoyable. On many of the Greek islands, you can visit wineries and sample the range of home-grown wines on offer.


Beautiful Bougainvillea - Kefalonia, 2010.

Beautiful Bougainvillea – Kefalonia, 2010.

Although not a native plant of Greece in particular, bougainvillea is everywhere to be seen in this fabulous country and serves to enhance its unique beauty, in my opinion. There is just something about the sight of colourful bougainvillea spilling down the side of a crisp, whitewashed building that makes me go a little bit weak at the knees.

Hiding myself in the Bougainvillea! - Kefalonia, 2010.

Hiding myself in the Bougainvillea! – Kefalonia, 2010.


The view from Ali Pasha Castle - it was a trek and a half to reach the summit but completely worth it! - Parga, Mainland Greece, 2013.

The view from Ali Pasha Castle – it was a trek and a half to reach the summit but completely worth it! – Parga, Mainland Greece, 2013.

Wherever you go in Greece, you will never have a shortage of things to do and stunning sights to soak up along the way. The country is home to a range of monuments and UNESCO heritage sights that are guaranteed to take your breath away.

Beauty, history and culture is everywhere you turn in Greece and whilst its fine and acceptable to be asked to pay towards the upkeep of some historical sites when you visit them, you will also find that in some places you can spend a day exploring some of Greece’s amazing history and soaking up some breath-taking sights, and it is all completely free of charge.

Meteora, Mainland Greece, 2013.

Meteora, Mainland Greece, 2013.

One particular site I would recommend would be the rock formations at Meteora on the mainland. Meteora is one of the largest complexes of Greek Orthodox monasteries in Greece and it is literally a breathtaking sight to behold. You can easily spend a day exploring this area, and you’ll also easily burn off some of the feta cheese you’ve been consuming (or maybe it’s just me who goes overboard on the feta when in Greece ;-) ) as it’s definitely an active day.


Perissa, Santorini, 2015.

Perissa, Santorini, 2015.

If, however, you’re longing to switch off from modern life and spend a week doing little more than rotating on a sun lounger, then that’s also absolutely fine in Greece. As mentioned earlier, there are so many beautiful beaches around Greece that you can top up your tan in some stunning settings. Whatever pace of life you’re after, Greece is happy to oblige.


Exploring Skiathos, 2012.

Exploring Skiathos, 2012.

Greece is blessed with a perfect climate for summer adventures. Usually not too hot and never too cold in the summer months, it is the perfect weather for exploring or lounging to your hearts desire. Just don’t forget your sun cream, you will need it!


Sunset over Oia, Santorini, 2015.

Sunset over Oia, Santorini, 2015.

You can spot some stunning sunsets in Greece and this past week, I was lucky enough to witness one of the famous Santorini sunsets in Oia. Along with about five million other people… Yep, it was a popular view and a struggle to shuffle to the front but once you got close enough and nudged all the selfie sticks out of the way, you found that the view was wonderful and well worth the visit.

9. CATS!

Friendly little fella in Perissa, Santorini, 2015.

Friendly little fella in Perissa, Santorini, 2015.

No post on Greece from this self-confessed cat lady would be complete without a nod to all the Greek cats out there! There are plenty of cats milling around in Greece, some which belong to people, some which sadly are feral or stray. However, increasingly, cat welfare centres are popping up around Greece to care for and neuter stray and feral cats in Greece. I could go for miles here with sharing my favourite Greek cats pictures but I thought I should limit it to these two ;-) .

'Theo', the friendly little cat who visited us every day in Hersonissos, Crete, 2012, and who inspired me to name my cat Theo one year later.

‘Theo’, the friendly little cat who visited us every day in Hersonissos, Crete, 2012, and who inspired me to name my cat Theo one year later.

So, as I sit here with my Santorini tan already falling off, I’m resisting the urge to book another Greek trip right here, right now! I think I should just enjoy my holiday memories for now. Please do share your Greek holiday memories with me! What’s the best place you’ve visited in Greece? Would you go back to the country? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

(All images © Jennifer Smith)


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